Nerd heaven

Star Trek Picard: “The End is The Beginning” Detailed Review (Nerd Heaven #013)

February 8, 2020

Jean Luc Picard finally takes command of a new ship and crew in the third episode of Star Trek Picard. Join me for a detailed review and analysis of this episode. This one feels more Star Trek than the previous two. The plot is beginning to heat up. Plus, the return of Hugh, and revelations about Dahj and Soji that raise many more questions than they answer. There's a lot going on in this episode. Geek out with me!

Welcome to Nerd Heaven.

I’m Adam David Collings, the author of Jewel of The Stars, and I am a nerd.

 

This is episode 13 of the podcast.

Today, we’re talking about the third episode of Star Trek Picard, titled The End is The Beginning.

 

First of all, though, I have to apologise for something.

In the last two episodes, I’ve been saying Akiva Goldsmith, but the man’s name is actually Akiva Goldsman. So, sorry about that. I realised my mistake while listening to other podcasts on the show. You know your eyes sometimes just see what they think is there, rather than what is really there.

 

Okay. Onto this week’s episode.

The description on Memory Alpha reads

 

Completely unaware of her special nature, Soji continues her work and captures the attention of the Borg cube research project's executive director. After rehashing past events with a reluctant Raffi, Picard seeks others willing to join his search for Bruce Maddox, including pilot and former Starfleet officer Cristóbal Rios.

 

This episode was written by Michael Chabon and James Duff

It was directed by Hanelle M. Culpepper

And it first aired on the 6th of February 2020.

 

And as Picard said for the first time this episode,

 

Engage!

 

Well there's certainly a lot of cool stuff happening in this episode. And this is definitely the most Star Trek feeling episode we’ve had so far.

 

First of all, do you remember last week, when I was disappointed that Picard’s old com badge made the wrong sound when he tapped it?

Well, in the “Previously on Star Trek Picard” bit, they changed it to make the correct sound.

But then, later in this episode, it makes the wrong sound again.

What’s that about?

 

Anyway, let’s talk about the story.

 

We get a few quick flashbacks of the attack on Mars yet again, and then we cut to earth. It’s still 14 years ago, and we see Admiral Picard. Inm Uniform! It’s a uniform we haven’t seen before, except in the comics.

I gotta say it’s a thrill to see Picard in Starfleet uniform again, even if it isn’t the familiar uniform from the TNG movies.

Jean Luc has been presenting his plan to Starfleet command. The rescue fleet is gone, but there are still options. Using reserve duty officers and mothballed ships they could still mount a rescue. Not as significant as the originally planned rescue, but it’s something. But if they used synthetic labour, it would be far less reduced.

His first officer, Rafi Mussiker is keen to know how it went.

We’re seeing a very different Rafi here. She still has her starfleet optimism. Her idealism. But it’s about to be crushed.

They said no. As Picard says, half of them never wanted to help the Romulans in the first place. (something I still find a little hard to believe).

We learn a little more about the situation with synthetic lifeforms. Not only is the development of new synths banned, but all current synthetic lifeforms must be dismantled.

This seems like quite an overreaction, but again, I can kind of see where Starfleet are coming from. They need to be very careful to prevent a tragedy like this from happening again. But what they really need to do is understand what caused it. They say it was a fatal flaw in the unit’s operating systems. But, in that case, you find the bug and you fix it. You don’t say “all computers must now be dismantled.” I’m a computer programmer. I do this for a living.

As rafi says, something smells off about all this.

It seems like there is a conspiracy at the highest levels pushing for this overreaction. Could they even be responsible for programming the synths to attack in the first place? That’s a trope we’ve seen in Star Trek before.

This also explains why B4 was dismantled.

 

Rafi thinks the tal shiar are behind it, but Picard makes a very logical point. Why would the Romulans do something to sabotage their own rescue efforts. It doesn’t make sense.

Weird question, why is Rafi, Picard’s first officer, therefore, a command officer, wearing yellow? Commodore Oh last week made sense. She’s head of Starfleet Security. It’s been established they wear yellow. But Rafi?

 

Picard’s departure from Starfleet is seen in a different light through this flashback. He didn’t just run away in a childish tantrum.

He asked them to accept his rescue plan, or accept his resignation.

To his shock, they accepted his resignation.

And now we learn why present day raffi is so angry with Picard. He gave up. Ironically, just like starfleet did. Raffi holds Picard accountable for the same thing Picard holds starfleet accountable for.

In Picard’s mind, there is really nothing more he can do. Offering his resignation was his last hope. Now, without Starfleet, he’s out of options.

But Rafi’s not ready to give up. She wants to find a way. Somehow.

Who is right?

Clearly Rafi didn’t succeed.

But if Picard had kept trying with her, could they have succeeded? We’ll never know.

 

Back in the present, Picard makes the same request to Rafi he made to Starfleet.

I need a ship and crew to go find Bruce Maddox.

And she gives him the same answer.

And then…...she smokes. She puts a flow off some plant she calls snake leaf, puts it in some kind of electronic cigarette thing, and she smokes. Honestly, this pulled me out of the story even more than the swear word last week.

Gene Roddenberry had a very strict rule as far back as the original series in the 60s. Nobody smokes in the 23rd century. As I’ve said, I don’t always agree with Rodenberry’s rules, but I credit this one  as why the original Star Trek has been as timeless as it is (old fashioned looking sets no withstanding). Smoking was very common in the 60s, but much less so now. If you’d had Captain Kirk puffing on a cigarette on the bridge of the enterprise, it would have firmly rooted the show in the 60s, and would feel very wrong today.

Kirk did smoke briefly in Star Trek 6, to keep warm on Rure Penthe, and it pulled me out of the story then as well. And later in this episode we see Rios chewing on a cigar.

I know Raffi has been through a lot. Character-wise, it’s a realistic move. Anywhere else, it would add an element of gritty realism. But I’m starting to think that Star Trek exists in it’s own little reality. Does realism actually feel unrealistic in Star Trek? I’ve always though I wanted realistic Star Trek, but the F bomb and now the smoking have me wondering, DO I really want realism in Star Trek? Emotional realism from the characters, absolutely. But touches like this? I’m not sure. I guess I need to keep thinking about it.

 

But speaking of that character emotional realism, I’m loving what they’re doing with Rafi. She’s carrying 14 years worth of hurt and rage.

But why, at the end of the 24th century, where money and poverty don’t exists, is Rafi living in what she describes as an embarrassing hovel? I can only assume it’s by choice. She’s sealed herself off like a hermit as Vasquez Rocks. Yes, for the first time, this iconic star trek location is being used as itself, not as an alien planet.

 

She burns picard with a scathing truth. It might have been nice to hear from you, and not just because you need me to hook you up with a ship and pilot. 

 

I’m loving character scenes like this in the new show. This scene in particular is effective. Beautiful writing and acting. 

Patrick Stewart is a phenomenal actor. We all know that. So, he kind of needs to be surrounded by other good actors, or else it really shows. Michelle Hurd seems to be up to the task. She can carry a scene with Stewart very well.

 

Now we get to meet Hugh for the first time. We knew he would be in the show, but this is his introduction.

We learn that he’s the director of the Romulan borg reclamation project.

But what lead him here? The last time we saw him was in Descent. He was leading a small group of Borg who had been disconnected from the continuum and regained their individuality.

Where’s he been up to all these years. Where are the others he was leading?

How did he get involved in this Romulan project?

We’re still to learn all this. And I’m hoping we will at some point.

Hugh is very impressed with Soji, the way she speaks to the drones in their own language. She has respect and compassion for the ex borg.

Apparently this is rare. Hugh tells us that ex borg are among the most despised people in the galaxy. Which is interesting because Picard is an ex borg.

I think the difference is that he doesn’t look like a nex borg. He was reclaimed much sooner than most, so all of his visible implants were able to be fully removed.

 

So Hugh is allowing Soji to interview someone called Ramdha. She’s a romulan ex borg.

And this is weird. Soji has seen her dossier from before she was assimilated. Hugh is shocked by this. Soji says, “I find if I ask people for help they’re happy to give it.”

So….does soji have some kind of android powers of persuasion?

I suspect this is something we’ll come back to.

 

Picard has already figured out that the Federation has to be complicit for the Tal Shiar to be operating so openly on Earth.

Raffi saw Romulan connections 14 years ago. Picard didn’t believe her then.

She claims to have concrete evidence that a high ranking starfleet official allowed the attack on mars to go forward, in order to stop the rescue mission going forward.

That’s…... pretty heavy.

 

Raffi refuses to help Picard on this mission, but she does offer to connect him with a pilot.

That’s the depth of their relationship, even though she currently hates him.

I like this because it shows that Picard has that same sense of family with Raffi that he had with Riker and all the others on the Enterprise. We didn’t get to see it develop, but it’s there. And that makes sense. Picard had a life during all those years he wasn’t on our screens. Raffi is new to us but she sure isn’t new to Jean Luc. The show sells this well, and so we’re willing to just accept raffi as if we’d always known her.

Picard does form strong family bonds with those he works closely with. When he was younger, he didn’t show it as openinly, but it was still there.

 

And then, we see Commodore Oh wearing sunglasses.

Have you ever seen something more comical? More out of place?

Ok. Realistically, in the 24th century, you still need a way to shade your eyes in the bright sun.

Makes sense. But seeing a starfleet officer wearing present day sunnies, and a vulcan at that. It’s not wrong, it just pulled me out of the story again, much like the swearing and the smoking.

It’s weird isn’t it. The realism touches seem to be having the opposite effect on me. That’s really strange.

Although, memory alpha reminds us that vulcans have inner eyelids that make sunglasses unnecessary, based on an episode of enterprise. But I’m still suspecting that Oh is Romulan, even though everyone, including Picard, believes she is vulcan. So is this some clever foreshadowing?

 

This is interesting. Hugh says he’s come to see patient 4822 stroke 2.

I have the subtitles on so I know how to spell things.

Looking at the way it’s written, I’d pronounce that as slash 2, not stroke 2.

I’ve never heard anyone pronounce the slash character as stroke. 

Is that an American thing?

 

Anyway

When romulans are assimilated, and then reclaimed, they seem to lose their minds. All the romulan former drones have severe mental illness. That’s fascinating. Is that a peculiarity of romulan Physiology? That’s fascinating, but also, very sad. It means that if a Romulan is assimilated by the borg, they’re never coming back. Even if they are restored, they’ll never be the same again.

Although that contradicts the voyager episode Unity. I’m sure there were Romulan ex borg in that episode. I’d have to re-watch it to be certain.

 

I love the scene when Picard calls Rafi.

You’re doing the research, aren’t you?

No

I’m sending you all I have on Bruce Maddox.

I don’t want it.

Carry on.

 

That really amused me.

That’s character-based humour done the right way.

 

Then we get our first look at the new ship, and we meet Santiago Cebrera’s character. Rios.

I love how it plays the TNG theme when Picard first breams aboard the ship. He probably hasn’t set foot on a starship in 14 years.

I love that Rios has an EMH. Makes perfect sense that after 20 years they’d be so common that everyone would have on on their ship. This is the perfect situation for one. Little ship with minimal crew. Rios isn’t gonna hire a doctor to travel with him in case he needs one occasionally. A holographic doctor would be a bit like a microwave. Something everybody has, and nobody can remember how we ever lived without them.

It’s also logical that his EMH looks like him. By now this is a mature technology. Of course you’d be able to skin your EMH with a custom appearance and personality that you find agreeable.

It’s possibly telling of rios’s character that his choice is to have holographic representations of  himself, with various different accents.

 

Let’s talk a little about Rios’s ship. On the outside, it doesn’t look very star trek at all, in design. Based on the trailers, I didn’t think the inside looked very star trek either, but now that I’m seeing details from various angles, I’m noticing little touches like the navigation thing at the from between the two forward stations, just like on Kirk’s Enterprise. And I think I can even see some LCARS on one of the consoles.

This ship has elements that root it in the Star Trek universe, while still feeling very fresh and new.

 

We get hints of a rich backstory for Rios. He was the XO of a starfleet ship called the ibn Majid, named after an Arabian navigator and cartographer from the 1400s. It strikes me how little I know of non western history.

 

Apparently, the ibn Majid ws erased from official starfleet records, kind of like the Discovery.

Rios served a grand heroic captain, who died horribly. Somebody we know, I wonder?

Clearly they’re hinting at something significant in the past there, and I can’t wait to learn what it’s all about.

 

Raffi locates Maddox on a place called freecloud. Looks like a casino. I wonder if we’ll see some Ferengi when we get there! Wouldn’t it be interesting if Quard had moved up in the world. I’d love to see him. We need some more deep space nine references in Picard. DS9 was always my favourite.

Anyway, I noticed the text Gorn Egg on the screen as she’s researching. Significant?

Judging by her facial expression, the name Freecloud has great emotional significance to Raffi, and clearly negative emotions.

 

I love the emergency navigation hologram fanboying all over Picard. He name drops some important references to the past. The Q continuum, Picard’s role as arbiter of succession. Cool stuff. This show seems to handle fan service better than any other show I’ve seen. It does it right, in a way that feels completely natural.

 

There’s a nice touching scene between Picard and Laris. I’m gonna miss Laris and Zhuban just as much as Picard will. I hope we see them again as the season goes on.

 

I chuckled quite a bit when Hugh called Soji a know it all. Lots of characters in Star Trek are knit alls, if we’re really honest, but I don’t think anybody has ever been called out on it before.

 

There’s a whole lot of interesting stuff going on between soji and Ramhda. Cool cultural details about false doors on Romulan houses. Stuff about romulan mythology. I don’t know what it all means, yet.

Ramdha knows about soji. She is one of the twins. One lives and one dies. She says she recognises Soji from tomorrow.

What on earth is that about? Are we hinting at time travel? This interesting. But we don’t get any answers in this episode.

There’s a whole mystery about what caused this borg cube to die. And it seems it has something to do with ramdha’s ship, the last ship assimilated by the cube. I’m hungry to learn more about this, too.

There’s another great action scene as Romulan comandos invade chateu picard. I like how they acknowledge Picard needs protecting. He’s not a young man anymore. But this doesn’t diminish him in any way.

And then Agnes Jurati is forced to kill a romulan to save them all. She is clearly shaken up by this. Of course she is. She’s not a soldier. Taking a life takes a huge toll on people.

The episode doesn’t take a lot of time to really delve into the emotional impact this will have on her. I hope they continue to give this time to develop over future episodes. It should haunt her.

 

The romulan forehead ridges in this show are a lot subtler than they were in TNG. So much so that at first I thought those were just creases in the actor’s face that plays zhuban. But apparently, it’s northerners that have the ridges.

In episode 1, I thought it was an overloading disruptor that killed dahj, but I have to agree with everyone else now, it seems these zhat vash Romulans spit some kind of acid.

 

There is clearly more to learn about Dahj and Soji. The romulan fear of them seems to be much more than a generic hatred of androids. Two romulans refer to her as the destroyer. Interesting.

 

Soji contacts her “mother” just like Dahj did. The mother lies to soji about dahj being okay. I'm pretty certain the mother doesn’t exist, but is just a part of the girls’ programming.

 

And just like dahj, soji gets flashes of knowledge that she shouldn’t have.

 

Risso is back on the cube, and no longer disguised as a human. Not sure why. She and Narak are … strangely intimate for brother and sister.

 

All the talk of Rios being expensive to hire, and Agnes earning her keep, is kinda of strange in a world where we know they have no money. That never made any sense anyway. I have to imagine that people like Rios probably interact outside of the federation a lot, so they use money. But where is Picard getting the money to pay for Rios’s services?

 

I’m living the longer transporter effect, that we saw when Picard and Laris beamed into Dahj’s apartment, and also on Rios’s ship. It’s very reminiscent of the tng transporter, just updated.

 

I’m really liking Agnes. Her youthful innocence helps balance out the world-weary characters like Raffi and Rios.

 

Raffi still doesn’t want to join Picard’s mission,but she wants to ride with them to freecloud, for reasons she won’t disclose. Interesting.

 

So Picard has a new crew. They’re a motley lot. It’s going to be an interesting ride.

 

And then….he says it. Picard says “engage”. And as the TNG theme swells in all its wonderful glory, the ship jumps to warp.

I’ve watched that scene 3 times and I still get goosebumps.

Now, it’s star trek!

 

I love it.

 

No doubt, there will be people who say it’s taken too long to get to this point. But i’m going to disagree with that. I’ve enjoyed the slow burn, taking time to let Picard get to this point on Earth. Exploring setting and character.

 

But this all makes good sense, and the reason is story structure.

Remember, we’ve been told this show is a 10 hour movie.

Another way to look at it, is it’s a novel on TV in 10 chapters.

The episodes of this show are made in chunks of 3. A collection of 3 episodes are all directed by the same person. These first 3 were directed by Hanelle M Culpepper. The next 3 will be directed by Jonathan Frakes.

Akiva Goldsman described these first three as act 1 of the story.

In story structure, act 1 takes us up to the first plot point at the 25 percent mark of the book, and that’s roughly where we are now.

Something significant happens and at the 25% mark, the character reacts to it, and will spend the rest of the story reacting to it. This is the moment when the protagonist really engages with the plot. They have a mission they’re all in. 

The next quarter of the story will be quite different. Picard is actively on the case.

 

I’m really enjoying Star Trek Picard so far, and I’m excited for the next part of the story.

Bring it on, mate.

 

Well, it’s time for an update on my walk to mordor.

I’ve walked 71.1 kms so far.

I’ve had my encounter with the black rider, and I’ve met the elves. My next milestone is the edge of farmer maggot’s field, which I’ll hit in 27kms.

I need to get out and have another significant walk this weekend. There have been days this last week I’ve been too busy to fit in my working and afternoon walks.

 

I still haven’t read the third Star Trek Picard countdown comic book, but I’ll endeavour to be able to talk about that next week.

 

Don’t forget, if you like Star Trek, which you must, because you’ve listened this far, I think you’ll also love my Jewel of The Stars series. My setting has drawn significant inspiration from Star Trek, and there’s a real boldly going kind of feel to it, even though these people are hardly starfleet. They’re the crew and passengers of a cruise ship that can no longer return home. So there’s a bit of battlestar galactica going on in there as well.

You can get book 1 for just 99 cents at all the popular ebook retailers, and it’s also available in print if you prefer that.

 

Also, if you’ve been enjoying my in-depth discussions on Star Trek Picard, why not shout me a hot chocolate. Just go to https://www.buymeacoffee.com/AdamDavidCollings

 

I’ll see you next week when we geek out over episode 4 of Picard, titled “Absolute Candor”

 

Until then

Live long and prosper

Make it so

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